Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Grounding accidents in substances

Consider this plausible principle:

  1. x partially grounds y if and only if there are cs that fully ground y and x is one of the cs.

But now consider this plausible-sounding Aristotelian claim:

  1. The substance (or its form or its essence—the details won’t matter) partially grounds each of its accidents.

Note that the grounding here is not full. For if my substance fully grounded my accident of sleepiness, then my substance would be metaphysically sufficient for my sleepiness, and I would be always sleepy, which is fortunately not the case.

So, by 2, my sleepiness is partly grounded by my substance (i.e., me?), and merely partly. By 1, then, it follows there are other things, beside my substance, such that my sleepiness is fully grounded by my substance and those other things. What are those other things? Is it other accidents of me? If so, then the problem repeats for them. Or is it something beyond my substance or accidents? But what would that be?

I am inclined to think that the solution to this problem is to reject 1. Somehow, 1 is reminiscent to me of the false view that:

  1. x indeterministically causes y only if there are cs that deterministically cause y and x is one of the cs.


Brian Cutter said...

Nice. Another problem-case for principle (1) comes from the following plausible principle:

(A) if x is F (where F is any property other than existence), then the fact that x is F is partially grounded in the fact that x exists.

But now take a case where some basic entity, like an electron, e, instantiates some basic property, like negative charge. Principle (A) says that the fact that e has negative charge is partially grounded in the fact that e exists. That seems plausible enough, but in this case it looks like there won't be any other (collection of) fact(s) X such that e's having negative charge is fully grounded in X + the fact that e exists.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I guess what we would need is something like an "x is F modulo x's existence" fact. :-) I suppose in a free logic you could say "x is F or x doesn't exist". But that disjunction surely doesn't even partly ground x's being F.